Twenty-five solicitors found guilty of professional misconduct in 2014-15
The Law Society of Scotland prosecuted 31 cases of misconduct before the independent Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) in 2014-2015 and made 25 findings of professional misconduct.
The SSDT has published its annual report for 2015. The report states that the tribunal heard and made decisions on 40 cases, including appeal cases.
A total of eight solicitors were struck off and can no longer practice. One solicitor was suspended and a further seven had their practising certificates restricted. A total of 11 solicitors were censured or censured and fined. Compensation was awarded in five cases.
In response to the publication of the annual report, Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The Law Society’s primary regulatory roles are to hold solicitors to the high professional standards set for them and to protect people from solicitors whose conduct breaches these standards.
“People rely on solicitors to do a good job for them and in the vast majority of cases, solicitors’ clients are happy with the advice and the level of service they receive – the most recent research by Ipsos MORI showed that 90 per cent of solicitors’ clients were satisfied. Our research also shows year on year that the vast majority of our members also believe regulation is a key priority for the Law Society, with over 80 per cent agreeing we should intervene where critical failure has been identified at a firm and over 70 per cent believing it is a priority for the Society to set standards and update practice rules.
“It’s important that clients can be confident in raising concerns and that their complaint will be dealt with appropriately on those occasions where things have gone wrong. We have been effective in our work to identify where solicitors have not met the standards required of them, for example, if problems are exposed at a firm following a Law Society inspection, and have also reduced the time taken to investigate conduct complaints year on year.
“Where a matter has been identified as misconduct, we prosecute the solicitor before the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal, an independent body made up of equal numbers of both solicitors and non-solicitors.”
This year, the SSDT’s annual report has highlighted the most common issues giving rise to conduct complaints against solicitors.
Many cases involved not complying with Law Society’s practice or accounts rules and non-compliance with Council of Mortgage Lender handbook rules, while others included excessive delays or simply not responding to clients or the Law Society.
The SSDT also dealt with cases relating to dishonesty, including two cases involving solicitors who had been convicted and sentenced by the courts prior to the tribunal hearing and who were subsequently struck off.
Ms McLintock said: “We advise all of our members to be aware of the issues that give rise to conduct complaints and work to ensure that they meet the standards expected of them.
“Dealing with complaints is complex and can often be very difficult for all those involved. It is essential therefore that we, along with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the SSDT, work to ensure that the processes in place are robust and fair to both complainer and solicitor, and that the right outcome can be reached in each case.”
The SSDT annual report can be read on the tribunal’s website.